“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is a real favourite and VS regular, and has in fact had the most individual “song for ewe” appearances (four) not to count those alongside the band in which she brilliantly sings (as counter-foil to band leader and punk eminece gris Robert Lloyd), ferociously drums, exuberantly runs the socials, and is an all-round force for good – The Nightingales. The Gales have had a long and creatively fecund career as outsider art rockers which has taken in countless labels and line-ups, but right now they’ve hit a real stride with their longest serving ever line-up (redolent of the later years of The Fall) and an unheard of second successive new studio album on the same label (the ever-excellent Tiny Global Productions). It’s called “Four Against Fate” (out on 18th April), and hot on the heels of not only VS album of the year “Perish The Thought” and last year’s reissue of “No Love Lost”, and with an exciting new documentary “King Rocker” about the band written by superfan and comedian’s comedian Stewart Lee and directed by “Toast Of London”/”Brass Eye” guy Michael Cumming, this was surely the year that the Gales would raise their head above the parapet and glimpse the sunlit uplands (i’m reclaiming that) of well deserved burgeoning success. Except that “Four Against Fate” turned out to be a baldly prophetic title. The four in question – Lloyd, Kitson, Schmid and Smith – truly now had to rally against the hand that fate has played, something nobody could have foreseen coming (bit like the Spanish inquisition, but a bit more like the Spanish flu unfortunately), although the dry cough by Robert right at the soon-to-be-anthemic top of single “Top Shelf” is strangely prescient.
The Covid-19 crisis has obviously affected stuff that’s more critical in the big scheme of things, but for the Gales it momentarily knocked them out of an orbit that included a sell-out tour, and with the coronavirus collapse of Flybe it’s also stopped the handy short hop from Fliss’s native Midlands to Andi Schmid’s Germany. And given that this was a band that liked to play together both musically and socially, the regular Friday cheers-ing of Fliss and Robert’s pint glasses has now had to Zoom off to social media rather than IRL socialising. But all of this is temporary. The Nightingales’ class is permanent, and top of the class is Fliss Kitson! Given that Fliss has chosen a veritable panoply of pop tunes for this feature ranging from Courtney Barnett to “Doop” by Doop via Toxic Shock and the Helmut Zacharias Orchestra, it’s always a joy to discover Fliss’ new “song for ewe”!
“Four Against Fate” was recorded late last autumn at Faust Studio in Scheer Germany by bassist Andi Schmid (former Faust member of course) and mastered by regular Tiny Global cohort Young Marble Giants’ Stuart Moxham. It features Clara Kebabian on violin, Kate Armitage from Hotpants Romance on sax (who’ve featured as part of a previous Gales “Lucky 7” on these pages), and Mark Bedford from Madness / Near Jazz Experience (with VS buddy Terry Edwards) on double bass.
All of the Gales have a go singing, but although Robert Lloyd is ever and undoubtedly the band’s fulcrum, it’s nexus, it’s axis, it’s id and superego, it’s notable that Fliss is let loose and allowed to fly full-throated as lead on more tunes than ever, and it’s an absolute joy to behold, especially with the seamless interplay on my fav “Then I Felt”. This is a band in total synapse swelling synergy, playing by instinct, always looking for the killer pass into the back of the net and making it billow at every opportunity. Jim’s guitar is straking like a Tommy Gun, Fliss’s rolling fills rumble with Andi’s relentless, disciplined snaking bass, Robert’s poetic justice mixed between swaggering deadpans and nursery rhyme like cut and thrusts, and it all reaches a Fall like three R’s rock & roll on the darkly infectious “The End Began Somewhere”. There are light moments too, like the blissful Booker T & The MGs “Time Is Tight” vibes of “Devil’s Due”.
This is a band that truly knows itself and knows how to have fun. And if the Devil has the best tunes then he’d surely give his due to the Gales.
Fliss has been a great friend to this humble zine, always happy to oblige with a great song choice, and she doesn’t disappoint once again with a top drawer/top shelf pick – so without further ado, here’s Fliss Kitson’s fourth (count ’em) “song for ewe”…
“Japanese Television – Crocodile Dentist
This is by far my favourite track from the last year. I was so bored of the same old boy bands and the hype around them and I actually stopped listening to new music for a bit.
I hadn’t been to see a new band for a while but was out to support a friends band and last minute addition to the bill was Japanese Television… they were an instrumental, psychedelic, angular revelation. Gave me a kick up the arse and some inspiration again… comes in waves dunnit, but JTV perked me right up.”
THANKS SO MUCH FLISS! HERE’S TO THE GOOD TIMES RETURNING AND TO THE PHYSICAL CLINKING OF GLASSES.
You can/should pre-order “Four Against Fate” – sure to be one of the albums of the year, right here via Bandcamp…it’s out on 18th April and features psychedelic cut & paste artwork designed by Fliss herself.
Also check out their other work via Tiny Global Productions
or the Gales own website
The Nightingales doc (Stewart Lee/Michael Cumming) is due later this year and here’s a tasty taster…
And like us at VS if you haven’t had your fill of Fliss, here’s some other classic “song for ewe” choices of yore…